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Aitken to replace Russell for Williams at Sakhir Grand Prix

NEWS STORY
02/12/2020

Williams has confirmed that Jack Aitken will race in this weekend's Sakhir Grand Prix alongside Nicholas Latifi.

The 25-year-old takes the place of driver George Russell, whom the team has released to drive for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton unable to race due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Aitken is currently the team's reserve driver and will now make his F1 debut at the penultimate round of the 2020 season. He is no stranger to the FW43, having taken part in an FP1 session earlier in the season at the Styrian Grand Prix. Alongside his reserve driver duties, Aitken has been competing in F2 this year, scoring two podiums and eight other points finishes.

"Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to everybody at Williams for giving me this opportunity," said Russell. "I might be wearing a different race suit this weekend, but I'm a Williams driver and I'll be cheering my team on every step of the way.

"I see this as a great chance to learn from the best outfit on the grid right now and to come back as an improved driver, with even more energy and experience to help push Williams further up the grid.

"A big thank you also to Mercedes for putting their faith in me. Obviously, nobody can replace Lewis, but I'll give my all for the team in his absence from the moment I step in the car. Most importantly, I wish him a speedy recovery. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity and can't wait to get out on track this week."

"I'm absolutely over the moon to have the opportunity to make my debut with Williams this coming weekend," said Aitken, "and I am extremely happy for George to have his chance too!

"I really mean it when I say I've felt very much at home here since I joined Williams earlier this year, so to get my chance to help the team try to achieve that elusive points finish is an extremely satisfying occasion to say the least.

"I'll be doing all I can to prepare in the coming days, but truthfully, I feel like I have been ready since Melbourne. I also want to wish Lewis well in his recovery, and good luck to George getting the chance to drive the Mercedes this weekend."

"Our long-term partnership and George's affiliation with Mercedes is no secret," said Acting Team Principal, Simon Roberts, "and so I'm delighted George has this unique opportunity to join Mercedes, the current Constructors' Champions.

"We have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to allow him this fantastic opportunity. George very much remains a Williams driver and we look forward to him returning to us fresh from this experience and wish him a successful race this weekend.

"We are also thrilled this means we are able to give another British talent in Jack Aitken the opportunity to make his Formula One race debut. Jack joined Williams at the start of this season, and despite COVID-19 restrictions meaning we haven't been able to interact with him as much as we would like, he has quickly become a much-liked member of the team. We look forward to seeing him build on his previous experience driving the car in practice, to see what he can do in a qualifying and race situation."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by C5, 05/12/2020 7:35

"@ChickenFarmerF1 yeah, I did think of that but in the interest of brevity i left that and a few other thoughts out...

My immediate solution would be that the team is free to choose the two drivers for any races beyond what is divisible by three. Which could obviously come in very handy for determining the WDC not least if two drivers within a team are within a shot come the end of the season.

I do agree it has a slight taste of gimmick to it. And there's a real risk some additional "playoff" races would be added in the end only for the best places drivers. I would REALLY hate that.

I will also admit that I usually moan "STOP FIDDLING WITH THE RULES" very loudly whenever FOM or some random team manager voices the next new - or not so new - idea to "spice up the show". So there is that.

It would definitely bring in an major new strategic element, especially as a car doesn't perform equally well at all tracks, and I also like that the races a driver competes in a season would be closer to how it was in the past.

But yeah, I do see plenty downsides too.
"

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2. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 02/12/2020 23:52

"@C5 - I see where you're going. And in spirit I kind of like it. But it seems maybe a little gimmicky or overly complicated. I like the idea of not being able to drop drivers mid-season (e.g. Red Bull), but at the same time I think they should have the ability to pick their representatives. It would also really complicate WDC considerations if only 2/3 of races counted for any one driver. And then what if there was a number of races not evenly divisible by 3 - say a race got canned due to local unrest, or another pandemic, or just torrential rain? Do the points for the "extra" race one or 2 drivers get to do not count? How do you pick which one doesn't count?"

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3. Posted by C5, 02/12/2020 22:40

"This is all very exciting.

I think F1 should build on this and change the rules so each team must employ 3 drivers for the two cars.
- Each driver must take part of 2/3 of the races (the team is free to choose which drivers start which races).
- A "reserve" driver can only be used if at least two of the regular drivers are unable to attend the race.
- To prevent teams from using by-the-race pay-go-lucky drivers, barring accidents they can only replace a driver in-season after he (or indeed she) has contested in at least 1/3 of of the races that season.

I think that could be fun to watch, without it being artificial or sacrificing the sporting element. And give a pathway both for new talent and for drivers such as The Hulk and Perez who clearly deserves to have a seat for 2021.
"

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4. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 02/12/2020 18:28

"Good news for all drivers mentioned, though I see the race this weekend as a good chance for Bottas to take a win and Russell to get a good haul, maybe a podium.

That being said, I think the days of the main team reserve driver is numbered.

Van Doorne can rightly feel aggrieved by this decision but then again, he did have a couple of years to show his talent against the hardest team mate around."

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5. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 02/12/2020 16:42

"@Burton - I'm sure as Batman said, Merc is going to make it worth William's while. And, truth be told, it's unlikely Williams would score points anyway.

Hopefully Russell acquits himself well. In the event Lewis decides his activism is more interesting than an 8th WDC a strong drive this weekend will position him perfectly to get a promotion."

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6. Posted by Batman, 02/12/2020 14:27

"I'm pretty sure that Mercedes will be very generou$ to Williams, maybe even more generous than the prize money for one or two championship points. And George is a must have and deserved 1st option for Mercedes. He will perform in accordance of that I'm sure."

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7. Posted by Burton, 02/12/2020 10:06

"While it's awesome Mercedes didn't go for the safe and boring alternative (sorry Stoffel), this means Williams are basically giving up their only chance of obtaining points, which is a bad look."

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